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Cycling notes: the pros and cons of braking with the heel – archive, 26 October 1896

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26 October 1896: The Guardian’s cycling column looks at braking methods, avoiding saddle accidents and the introduction of a special ladies’ tyre

Apropos of my statement last week that “a rider never has complete control of his machine when coasting”, CG of Pendleton, writes as follows – “I find I have perfect control without a brake at all, in this way. The feet are on the rests on the front forks; if both heels are pressed inwards simultaneously they grip the rim of the front wheel, and in a very few yards the machine can he brought to a standstill. This brake cannot be applied, of course, with a metal mudguard in use, and of course it wears the shoe leather; but the control of the machine is perfect and absolute, and requires no practice.”

I admit that CG may have, in a sense, “perfect” control, but at what a sacrifice! I am a rider of some experience, and even when assisting its action by back-pedalling I should be very chary of using a brake to any extent on a light machine. The strain on the forks and crown is too great. To coast on such a machine, trusting to pressure on the rim to check its pace, I should characterise as foolhardy, and it would be an excessive strain to apply even to a roadster machine. Apart from this, however, it is impossible to have “complete” control as regards steering and facility of dismounting when the feet are off the pedals. Finally, this system of breaking is only possible when the mudguards are removed, and with such a climate as we enjoy the man who does not use guards cycles very little or is careless of dirt and discomfort.

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